Friday, September 04, 2015

Breaking Bad

After eliminating most of our cable TV channels to save money, Lana and I decided to use the library to pick up some TV series that we’d heard good things about. We figured to watch an episode or two a night and get through a series that way. The first show we decided on was Breaking Bad. We’ve now finished it, and here are some thoughts.

First, watching a show this way is a lot better than watching it on a normal broadcast timeline. You don’t have the lengthy breaks that lead to forgetting of plot lines and details. I suspect that probably added to our enjoyment of the show.

Second, Breaking Bad is, in both Lana and my opinions, a very, very good drama. There are some weaknesses, particularly the show’s relatively poor handling of the main female characters, but overall the writing was outstanding. Tension, characters who were fully rounded and showed development, the settings, the way flashbacks were used. All these were deftly handled.

Third, this is only the third time in my history that I actually felt, even remotely, the kind of sadness at the end of a TV series as I have so often felt at the end of a really good book. The only other times I’ve had this feeling was with Star Trek: the Next Generation, and Frazier, and the feeling in both those cases was much less than with Breaking Bad. I’m talking about the kind of bittersweet melancholy that one feels when you read the last page of a beloved book and close the cover.

As we got closer to the end of the series, Lana and I both hated thinking about how we had only three episodes left, then only two, and then one. That’s also not something I’ve really felt, although I’ve never watched a show in this fashion before.

Lana and I were talking last night about our concern that we’ve become spoiled by Breaking Bad and that we’ll never find another series to watch that will compare. We do plan to try The Wire, Justified, and some others, so I suppose we’ll see.

I’ll end with this thought. TV has never been of much interest to me. I’ve very, very rarely felt any particular desire to see the ‘next’ episode of some show. For those shows I liked, such as Frazier and TNG, I was happy to catch an episode when I could but never gave it much thought between episodes. Breaking Bad has been something of a revelation to me. I think, for the first time, I have seen the potential for TV to create the kind of compelling stories that I’ve taken for granted in written fiction. I didn’t even know it was possible.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Drying Time

The last part of summer 2015 has been the driest period that I've experienced since moving here to Louisiana in 1986. We saw just how dry when Lana and I took a walk yesterday at the Abita Springs Flatwood Nature Preserve.

A creek flows through the Flatwoods, which is primarily a pine savanna. Most years in late summer, the creek is no longer running but still has one large, deep, long pool, and a few smaller ones. We had noticed a week ago how low the main pool had gotten and how shortened it was. Yesterday we saw that it was down to quite a small mudhole and were saddened to see a bloat of dead fish all around its banks. I imagine they simply ran out of oxygen. (The following pictures are not pleasant to look at, but you can click on them to enlarge them.)

One thing you don't see in these pics, and I didn't know it was there until we got home and Lana started processing the images, is that there's a very much alive snake curled up under one of the logs. Last week we saw it catching what appeared to be a frog in the pool. You also don't see the numerous raccoon tracks in the surrounding mud.

In some ways, even sadder than the many dead fish were the fifty or sixty small catfish swimming aimlessly around and around in the remnant. Mudcats are tough but unless we get some rain in the next day or so they won’t make it either. 

After seeing this, I walked about a few hundred yards along the creek and found not a single other pool. There were a few spots where the mud was still barely damp, but no other water at all.  The animals that come to our yard are faring better because in addition to food we’ve been putting out water each day. Still, I hope we get some rain soon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Hint of the Cool

I stepped out the door at about 6:15 AM on Monday and found it refreshingly cool. It’s been a long, hot summer. That’s not unusual for us down here; I can’t say it’s been much different than any of our other summers as far as the heat goes. It has been, however, a drier summer than we are used to. The big creek at the Flatwoods nature preserve near our house is almost totally dry. There’s only one pocket of water left, and it is rapidly disappearing. I’ve never seen it this low since we moved into our place in 2006. We’ve been putting out some water for the birds and other critters in our back yard.

I’m glad to see the worst heat behind us, although we’ll still have some pretty brutal days. I’ve never been one to particularly mind the cold, although I’ve always lived in the south where the colder temperatures seldom get to the extreme. In the time I’ve been in Louisiana, it has only gone below ten degrees once, and that was a cold snap that lasted several days. I’ve seen snow about three times since 1986, two of those since we moved to the Northshore after Hurricane Katrina. The snow has never lingered more than a few hours.

Frankly, I rather enjoy cold temperatures, at least as long as I can eventually find a place to get warm. Down here, I tend to wear short sleeve shirts year around, although in the coldest period of our year, usually January-February, I may pair the shirt with a windbreaker when I’m outside. During our “winter,” which has to be put in quotation marks for those who might mistake it for a real winter, I often get asked by people at school: “Aren’t you cold?” This is because they are wearing a heavy coat and gloves while I’m still wearing my t-shirt.  These days I just respond with: “Aren’t you hot?”

Just like how, sometimes, I feel as if I were born out of time, I often feel as if I were born out of place. Maybe I should have been a Neanderthal in Ice Age Europe.

Come to think of it, maybe I was.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gods of Talera Progress

I'm working on the fifth book in the Talera series at present. The title is Gods of Talera, and it will bring to conclusion a number of threads that have been running throughout the previous books. Mid-summer, from mid-June through mid-July were a highly productive time for me. During about five weeks, I wrote over 25,000 words on the project. 

Then in late July the real world came back to intrude in a big way and my production dropped way off. Week-long plumbing problems, the AC going out, Lana's surgery, blood tests for me, more AC issues, taking back chairship of the research IRB committee at work, and then getting ready for the fall return to school, brought my writing to a near standstill. I've managed only a few thousand words since that all started. 

Nevertheless, the book is still moving forward and I'm at 58,000 words on it now. I can largely see my way through to the end, although exact details are still a bit hazy. I had originally hoped to have a strong rough draft done by the time school started, but now I'm pushing my schedule back and plan to have the final work done by Christmas. We'll see.

 A lot will depend on how heavy the school year  is. When I was younger I could work an 8 or 9 hour day at school and then come home and still write another couple of hours. That's really not happening for me much these days. Much of that is physical. By the end of a day my legs often ache and throb so badly that I can hardly sit in a chair. Plus, my emotional state is not as responsive as it once was. It takes me longer to recover from emotional shocks and I'm not as able to lose myself in writing in response to emotional upset as I once was. 

The secret, of course, is to find workarounds for those things that throw me off. I've always been able to do so before and probably will now as well. The main thing it takes is will. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sorry I Haven't Been Around

School started Wednesday and I've been doing 12 hour days. No chance to visit blogs and tomorrow is not likely to be any different. I should be around for a visit this weekend and sometime next week should be getting back to a somewhat normal routine.

Part of the reason for the long hours is that Xavier experienced a nice enrollment increase and our department had one of the biggest increases of all. Great to see after a few years of falling enrollments. Certainly increases our work load, though.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

A New (for us) Approach to TV

TV has just never been important to me. There are a few shows that I really like and that have been an influence on my writing, but most are forgotten within an hour of having watched them. Star Trek is an exception, although I also read quite a few Star Trek related works.

Recently, however, Lana and I changed our viewing habits and that has led to a slight increase in my appreciation for TV. Because of budget constraints, we got rid of all but our basic cable package, and that meant a lot of shows that I might have caught here and there were no longer available to us. Since Lana works at the library, though, we decided to start picking up series from the library and watching them a season at a time, meaning an episode or two a night.

We started with Game of Thrones, which Lana had already watched in this fashion. But getting a chance to see a couple of episodes a night and watching the series straight through a season over a week or so quickly got me involved in the series. When we ran out of Game of Thrones, we started with Breaking Bad, and I was quickly hooked. I also suggested an old TV series called "The Invaders," which I had seen some episodes of. Although not nearly as compelling, we are now on season 2 of the two season show. Of course, there were like 20 episodes a season back then.

We still have some seasons of Breaking Bad, and one of Game of Thrones. After that we'll want to do The Walking Dead when we can get the new season. Some other shows we may try this way, Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Lost, The X Files. I'm certainly liking this way of viewing things better than how I did it before. I've tried to watch series and generally always miss episodes here and there, which gradually leads to me losing interest in the show. This way of viewing helps keep my interest up, and Lana and I have always watched an hour or so of TV together of a night when we eat our meals so it fits our habit already.